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This blog is a service of Alston & Bird's Climate Change and Carbon Management team and focuses on rapidly emerging issues associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Our lawyers are experienced with a wide range of domestic and international business, regulatory and litigation issues in this arena.

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White House Set to Release Carbon Rules for Existing Power Plants

May 30, 2014 9:07 AM | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, State Policy/Programs, Energy Policy, GHG / Climate Change

President Barack Obama is expected to release rules that will put a cap on carbon emissions from existing power plants on June 2. The rules will likely provide many contentious issues. One to keep an eye on is how states handle the rules as they will likely be tasked with developing and implementing programs that comply with EPA guidelines. Another potential issue is how far the rules actually go to cap the greenhouse gas emissions. Will the owners of the power plants keep them open, retrofit them or close them based on how far the emissions limits go.

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CCS Bills In the Senate

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is trying to gain support from her colleagues for S. 2152, legislation that would increase the commercial availability of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. The “Advanced Clean Coal Technology Investment in our Nation Act of 2014” (AACTION Act) would expand the Department of Energy’s (DOEs) research and loan guarantee programs for CCS. Heitkamp believes the future of coal relies heavily on CCS technology. She doesn’t see her bill moving in this Congress, but is hopeful that her efforts to gain support from her colleagues that she will be able to push it forward next Congress.

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Supreme Court To Consider EPA’s Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

February 21, 2014 3:27 PM | Posted by Geoff Rathgeber | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Litigation, GHG / Climate Change

On February 24, 2014, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to EPA’s rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions form stationary sources under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration program. This case comes to Supreme Court as a consolidation of six cases after the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld portions of the EPA’s greenhouse gas program.

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President Orders Tighter Fuel Standards for Trucks

February 18, 2014 2:32 PM | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Mobile Sources, Carbon Markets, Clean Tech, GHG / Climate Change

President Obama has issued an order to the U.S. EPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop tighter fuel economy standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks beyond model year 2018. The new standards must be finalized by March 2016, with the proposed standards developed by March 2015. Obama said the standards represent “another big step to grow our economy and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.” The White House plans to work with truck manufacturers and operators in developing the standards.

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Longtime Congresssman Henry Waxman to Retire

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will retire after four decades of serving the country as a member of Congress. Waxman served as a leader for the Democratic party on many health and environmental issues over the four decades, including: universal health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid coverage, cost of generic drugs, tobacco regulation, air and water quality standards, pesticide regulation, and climate change efforts. His leadership efforts earned him the spot of Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from January 2009 – January 2011. If you asked Republicans, they would say Rep. Waxman was a very partisan member of Congress, while Democrats would say he helped lead legislative compromises to make key bills become laws. Waxman said, “At the end of this year, I would have been in Congress for 40 years. If there is a time for me to move on to another chapter in my life, I think this is the time to do it.”

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Governor Brown Releases Draft Safeguarding California Plan

December 13, 2013 11:13 AM | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), GHG / Climate Change

California Governor Brown has released a draft Safeguarding California Plan which outlines actions the state needs to take to be ready for the impacts of climate change. The draft plan examines nine different areas that are impacted by climate change: agriculture; biodiversity and habitat; emergency management; energy; forestry; ocean and coastal ecosystems and resources; public health; transportation; and water. In developing the plan, seven strategies were identified to be put into action that cross into the nine areas identified above. The seven strategies are:

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White House Loses Another Environmental Adviser

December 5, 2013 10:56 AM | Posted by Greissing, Patrick | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Legislative & Public Policy (State, Local, Federal, Int'l), GHG / Climate Change

Nancy Sutley, the chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will step down from her role in February. Sutley was a key contributor to the Obama Administration’s climate action plan released earlier this year. She also played a role in creating new fuel efficiency standards and new standards for carbon emissions from power plants. Sutley’s departure follows that of Heather Zichal, Obama’s top climate policy adviser, who recently left her position.

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EPA’s New Strategic Plan Includes Focus on Emission Standards for Heavy Duty Vehicles and Off-Road Sources

November 25, 2013 1:03 PM | Posted by Bruce Pasfield | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Mobile Sources, GHG / Climate Change

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft strategic plan entitled, “Draft FY 2014-2018 EPA Strategic Plan.” As part of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment the draft strategic plan has five strategic goals: 
    • Address climate change and improve air quality, 
    • Protect America’s waters, 
    • Clean up Communities and advance sustainable development, 
    • Ensure safety of chemicals and prevent pollution, and 
    • Protect human health and the environment by enforcing laws and assuring compliance.
The draft plan also lists EPA’s core values as science, transparency and rule of law. The plan focuses on “developing and using creative, flexible, cost-effective, and sustainable actions that deliver significant benefits on the ground in protecting and improving human health and the environment.”

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Bi-partisan Group Seeks Probe Into RIN Market Manipulation

October 31, 2013 2:53 PM | Posted by Bruce Pasfield | Topic(s): Federal Policy/Programs, Renewable Energy, Clean Tech, GHG / Climate Change

A bi-partisan group of House members sent a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) asking for an investigation into the alleged manipulation of the market for ethanol credits. The group of Representatives, all from the Midwest, said in their letter that price volatility in the market over the last year could be due to trading outside normal supply-and demand forces. Renewable identification numbers (RINS) are used to identify the credits and were created to be traded in the fuel supply chain and not in financial markets. The prices per credit fluctuated over the year from a few cents upwards to a high of $1.45 and back down to 30 cents. The oil industry and ethanol producers have different opinions on what has caused the price volatility. Sens. Grassley (R-IA) and Stabenow (D-MI) sent letters to the EPA and the CFTC respectively in September in regards to the manipulation of the RIN market. When the senators wrote their letters the RIN prices were around 70 cents. The lawmakers believe the CFTC and the EPA need to coordinate efforts to properly monitor the RIN market.

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